There are times when precision is needed, and there are other times when it is not. When we are talking about God then we must always be in the first category. This is because God is the being who is worthy of the highest regard. He is infinitely more valuable than anything else we give careful attention to. What’s more, he has revealed himself with precision in the Scriptures. There are certain aspects of God that we don’t fully understand, but the limits of our knowledge aren’t excuses for carelessness with what he’s clearly revealed.
Recently I was watching a local megachurch pastor give a sermon. In the middle of his appeal for his listeners to ask God to give them the Holy Spirit, he referred to the Holy Spirit as it. Sometimes people get confused and think of the Holy Spirit in less personal terms. But remember, Christians are Trinitarian. We believe that God is one being who exists in three coequal and coeternal persons, who love and glorify one another; namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an it, he is God, the third person of the Trinity. As a sampling, the Holy Spirit speaks (Acts 8:29); makes decisions (Acts (15:28); is grieved (Eph. 4:30); can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4); gives spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11); helps us (Rom. 8:26-27); and even can prevent our plans (Acts 16:6-7). This is not the work of an it.
I know some might push back and say, “Easy, Erik, aren’t you being a bit picky?” To this, I would say, “Yes!” This is the whole point! We are supposed to be precise with what God is precise about. God has taken great care to reveal himself in such a way that we know who he is and how he is to be worshiped. For the sake of illustration, how do you think my wife would respond if I casually referred to her as an it? I’ll give you a hint, not well. She is a person. In fact, she is a very special person to me. Listen, our speech reflects what we think and know. It is an indictment upon ministers of the Word to speak in ways that reveal a lack of familiarity with the beautiful complexity and distinctiveness of God. Just as a husband should not have to be reminded of the ontology of his wife, so too we as Christians must be sure we are familiar with who God is.
In addition, this serves as a particular reminder to me and all other pastors. We sometimes get caught up in the work of ministry and chase after growth. This reminds us of what is truly important. The irony of this whole thing is this pastor was on a sharp video, with a perfect backdrop, perfect lighting, Powerpoint, and he was dressed sharp. To the eye, everything looked like it was together. But, theologically, he was swinging and missing. Fellow pastors, we mustn’t forget that before everything else, we must be sure that we are being faithful to the Word of God and the God of the Word. The other stuff may have its place, but it is never first place.
God is seeking true worshipers. He is the ultimate seeker. And, he seeks those who worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This is a precise God. May we, especially ministers, give him the precision he demands.